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Bicolano volunteers are recognized for rekindling bayanihan spirit

In the spirit of the time-honored tradition of “Bayanihan”, Bicolano volunteers who participated in the 2023 Search for Outstanding Volunteers (SOV) were recognized during the first-ever face-to-face SOV Regional Awarding Ceremony led by NEDA Region 5 on December 1, 2023 at NEDA Region 5, Legazpi City.

The annual SOV, the centerpiece activity of the National Volunteer Month being led by the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency, aims to identify and recognize outstanding Filipino volunteers and volunteer organizations for their exemplary performance and achievements in empowering communities and promoting volunteerism as a way of life, thus contributing to nation-building.

For this year’s Search, the 2023 SOV Regional Search Committee (RSC) hailed Mr. Santiago K. Cervantes as the highest-ranking nominee for the Individual-Adult Category for his consistent and selfless dedication to serve in the agriculture, fishery, and forestry sector for more than three decades. Mr. Joshua Carl B. Barcelon, the founder and executive director of the Albay Young Farmers Organizations, Inc. bagged the highest score in the Individual-Youth Category. The organization that he founded in 2021 was recognized as one of the 2022 Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations in the Philippines, for promoting innovative agriculture and empowering youth as leaders and nation-builders. The Tabang Bikol Movement, Inc. headed by Ms. Evita Jimenez-Tuazon, was acclaimed as the regional winner for the Non-Profit Organization Category for its successful community organizing efforts that mobilized volunteers from vulnerable groups to empower their respective communities. Ms. Ma. April Mier-Manjares of the Philippine Daily Inquirer bagged the 2023 National Award for the Bayanihan Media Awards for Individual-Print Category for using the media as her platform to effectively communicate the importance of volunteerism in the development process.

Mr. Artemio S. Andaya, Jr., 2022 National Outstanding Volunteer for Individual-Adult Category, in his inspirational message, called his fellow volunteers to continue pursuing a life of service that makes a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, sans any form of recognition. Dir. Charles V. Bolival of the Camarines Sur Polytechnic College Extension Services, the 2021 National Outstanding COVID-19 Volunteer for Organization Category who also graced the awarding ceremony, emphasized the positive impact of fulfilling tasks beyond compliance.

Dir. Luis G. Banua of NEDA Region 5 commended not only the highest-ranking volunteers, but all volunteers who exerted an effort to make a difference in the lives of others. He shared that NEDA Region 5, as the secretariat of the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC), is initiating the issuance of a memorandum circular adopting volunteerism as development strategy in the Bicol Region. The circular will provide a policy framework on volunteerism to underscore the fundamental principles necessary to harness and harmonize the broad and diverse efforts of the voluntary sector. More importantly, the circular will provide a conducive and enabling environment for the volunteers and volunteer service organizations by setting mechanisms to protect volunteers’ rights and privileges and give due recognition to highlight their roles and contributions to society.

With the PNVSCA at the forefront of fostering awareness and appreciation of the value of volunteerism in the different sectors of society, Dir. Donald E. Gawe of the PNVSCA expressed appreciation for the members of the RSC for their active participation in the deliberations and validation that enabled the selection of regional awardees. The 2023 SOV RSC is chaired by NEDA Region 5 with members coming from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Information Agency, Civil Service Commission, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and RDC Private Sector Representative for Youth and Students, Alfred M. Nimo.

The regional awarding ceremony may be the first of many. Bicol will move forward, with high hopes that the efforts of the volunteers will have a ripple effect, that will rekindle in every Filipino the bayanihan spirit to foster social justice, solidarity, and sustainable development.


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